4 critical issues for competency-based education programs

As K-12 competency-based education programs become more widespread, educators and policymakers would do well to focus on four key issues that can make or break high-quality programs, according to a new report.

The CompetencyWorks report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education, calls for creating competency-based systems where the culture, structure, policies and instructional practices fully support each and every student in their journey towards preparation for college, career and life.

“K-12 education in the United States and across the world is at a turning point, and we have an opportunity to redesign K-12 education to serve every student,” said Susan Patrick, CompetencyWorks Co-Founder and iNACOL President and CEO.

“Competency education systems prepare all students to graduate high school with the academic and lifelong learning skills to be leaders in their communities, visionaries, and agents of their own success — whether in college, career, or navigating the opportunities and challenges they will encounter in their lives.”

Competency-based education programs have steadily increased throughout states and districts over recent years, according to the report. This is due to many reasons, including lifting the ceiling on learning so that students can excel beyond their grade levels; ensuring students are building higher order skills; seeking to offer students a richer education beyond preparation for college and careers; opening up more opportunities for students to learn any place, any time; and, responding to demographic changes.

The report identifies four key issues surrounding the advancement of competency-based education.

Equity: How can competency-based education systems overcome a history of bias and discrimination and realize educational equity?

Quality: Attention to quality is essential for competency-based cultures and structures to realize their promise for students. What are the most important guiding principles or features of quality that competency-based schools must have in place?

Meeting students where they are: High-quality competency-based education systems anchor learning in relationships and an expectation that educators draw upon professional knowledge to select strategies based upon an understanding of their students as individuals, adapting as needed to personalize the learning pathway towards common high expectations.